The World Wildlife Fund is undergoing a significant shift in strategy to respond to the rapidly increasing environmental threats in countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The organization recently eliminated at least 50 positions at its Washington, D.C. headquarters, mostly in the areas of field conservation support and technical assistance.
“We are shifting more toward moving that capacity for field conservation and technical assistance closer to the ground in those same geographies,” Carter Roberts, CEO of WWF USA, told Devex.
The organization wants to ensure its offices in China, India, Mozambique and Nepal are all strongly staffed and have the ability to succeed locally in engaging civil society, the private sector and government.
On the other hand, the new focus in the United States will be for the conservation group to “double down” on their efforts to engage the American public and government, as well as build partnerships with multinational corporations and multilateral institutions. To facilitate this, WWF plans to create at least 15 new positions in community outreach and engagement, U.S. government engagement, innovation and partnership, while more support roles will be added in offices in emerging economies.
Bending the curve
The heads of WWF’s 75 country programs met in Nov. 2013 in Switzerland to debate what it will take for them to become a truly global network and commit to building capacity in emerging economies, Roberts said. A previous meeting in Wyoming in June had helped move forward the implementation of the new strategy.
When looking at the larger trends in WWF’s work — such as deforestation, loss of species and climate change — all those key indicators are trending negative, according to the U.S. country director.
“We realized that if we are going to make a difference at a global scale against those issues, if we’re going to bend the curve, we need to change the ways in which we work,” he said.
The changes are not isolated to the United States — the U.K. branch has already made extensive changes, and Norway and China are also updating their strategies.
Aside from staff changes around the world, Roberts said to watch out for WWF launching in the next few months more innovative ideas and more initiatives at scale than ever before.
The organization is currently working with the Brazilian government both in creating and financing the largest system of parks in the Amazon Basin, larger than the whole U.S. state of California. WWF has also signed a memorandum of understanding with 56 of the 100 largest food companies in the world to shift the market in agricultural commodities and use less land and energy in their production.
“We want to do more of this,” Roberts said. “And we better be willing to change ourselves if we are going to change the world.”
WWF will hold its next organization-wide meeting in May in Brazil to discuss the next steps in this ongoing strategy.
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